REVIEW: No Control by Shannon K Butcher
Dear Mrs. Butcher,
A friend of mine recommended this book as one in which there isn’t too much gratuitous violence. Since I loathe play-by-play descriptions of the evil people can do to each other, I paid attention and noted the title. As she said, it isn’t so much a slice by slice commentary of what was done to the heroine as a psychological study of what the heroine goes through afterwards and how the hero handles what he had to do in the name of justice.
I really appreciate the fact that you manage to convey the seriousness of what the heroine endured while not dwelling on the details. There’s enough there to know the physical and mental anguish she was subjected to while in the hands of the terrorist wannabes as she was beaten and watched her friends die. The fact that the hero was undercover and thus couldn’t interfere with what he was forced to watch happen or else risk the lives of countless others was a realistic way to set up the hero/heroine conflict.
That the heroine might have glimpsed the faces of some of her kidnappers and thus be in danger from them even after her rescue begins the main body of the story. I found it believable, to a point, that Lana would hide the knowledge of what she knows from the Delta Force operatives who rescued her and debriefed her during her stay in the hospital. She barely escaped with her life and in her mind, if she says anything and only some of these people are hunted down, the ones who remain will realize that she saw them and come after her. Pretending ignorance kept her alive then and she counts on it now.
Caleb and his cold-hearted bastard of a boss know she knows more but no one can get her to admit it. This was fine while she kept a low profile during the torturous months of her physical recovery but now that her children’s foundation is seeking publicity in order to raise funds, Lana’s face is on the news and her name has been mentioned, once too often, in the intercepted chatter between terrorist operatives. Caleb has his own bad memories of having to do nothing while this innocent woman was almost beaten to death and he’s not going to stand by a second time and allow her to die.
Books which feature these super military men/spies who are supposed to be so focused on the end result and willing to sacrifice people to suppress the bad guys walk a difficult line. If they’re too ruthless, then we don’t see the cold one as a lead character nor can we cheer for the relationship. If they’re too much of an emo, then we wonder at the description of their single minded efficiency and badass-ness.
Caleb seems too much of both to me. Let me explain that. Yeah, he’s super at taking the bad guys out. He’s a lean, mean fighting machine when up against evil. But once he’s confronted with the nightmares that wake Lana up screaming and spends time watching her bravely take the world on her shoulders, he’s a choked up marshmallow who mentally beats himself up over trying to get her to reveal what she knows. I have problems seeing a real Delta Force operative that in touch with his inner Alan Alda. Caleb is definitely a Romance Super Hero and not, to me, realistic military man.
And did I say Lana is an overachieving martyr? I can see why she drives herself in order to fill her days and half her nights in order to keep her nightmares at bay. I can see that the children’s foundation she’s trying to establish gave her a reason to get up in the morning and keep struggling through her painful physical therapy (they don’t call them physical terrorists for nothing). I understand that she hopes not saying anything will convince any terrorists still out there that she knows nothing and that it’s not worth coming after her or her family. But after they start messing with her family and the foundation, not to mention the lengths undergone to infiltrate her life, I couldn’t help but shake my head at her continued avowals to Caleb that she knows nothing and that she doesn’t need any help from the big, strong men who know how to protect her and disarm bombs and such.
As for the bad guys, one person sort of flirted with the edge of too much happiness at the suffering of others. And I wondered at the continued use of stupid, beer swilling Denny. Yes, he’s supposed to be the ultimate fall guy but if he can’t manage to do any of the tasks assigned to him, then it’s time to find a tool who can. And what was the purpose of the little subplot with Lana’s ex? It went nowhere and added little to the story. And why add the throw away line about the police detective’s 6th grade teacher? I also got the fact that Caleb is big and strong as compared to tiny Lana. Enough with the mention of his thick thighs.
On the plus side, I enjoyed the guy talk between Caleb and his fellow operative and friend, Grant. I also think the language used sounds realistic for two military men. I found the heroine’s personal choice made at the end to be consistent with her character as shown throughout the book and yet one that still shows she’s taking control of what happened to her and turning a corner in her recovery. And thank you for the intimations that the terrorists are taken care of once and for all.
So, while I do have some issues with the story, it’s one I’m glad I read and I will watch for your books in the future. B-